28 Oct, 2020
JERUSALEM WEATHER

After he was beaten in a judo match by Israeli judoka Ori Sasson at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Friday, Egyptian opponent Islam El Shehaby walked off the floor to loud boos when he refused to shake Sasson’s hand or bow after the match.

After a decisive victory in the men’s over-100 kg first-round judo match, Sasson, who would later go on to win a bronze medal, Israel’s second during the Rio Games, approached El Shehaby with his hand extended for the customary post-match handshake, but the Egyptian contender backed away without accepting before turning to leave. Sasson returned to the edge of the mat and bowed, as is required by the sport’s rules, before walking away. The referee had to call Shehaby back to the ring to bow, which he did perfunctorily and after Sasson had already left.

The Algemeiner reported that El Shehaby, the 2010 World Judo Championship bronze medalist in the over-100-kilo category, “who is known for his extreme anti-Israel views,” was undecided before the match as to whether he would be willing to face an Israeli in Olympic competition. NRG reported that the head of the Egyptian Olympic Committee  assured all concerned that El Shehaby would appear for his match, and the Egyptian Judo Association warned the judoka that if he did not compete, his Egyptian citizenship would be immediately revoked.

After the match, the Egyptian Olympic Committee issued a statement, criticizing the athlete’s actions.

“El-Shahaby was alerted before the match to abide by all the rules and to have sporting spirit during his match with the Israeli player,” it said, adding, “What the player did after the match, and not shaking hands with his rival, is a personal action.”

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The International Judo Federation spokesman Nicolas Messner felt the snub was actually “a big improvement” in the Arab states’ attitude to Israeli athletes at the Olympics.

“In the past, it is not sure that a fight between those two athletes would have taken place. This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to be opposed to Israel,” he said.

El Shehaby later announced he was quitting competitive Judo.

These Olympic games have already been the scene of several such snubs towards Israel. Last Sunday, Saudi competitor Joud Fahmy forfeited her first-round judo match against Christianne Legentil from Mauritius at the Games, in what Hebrew media said was a maneuver to avoid facing Israeli judoka Gili Cohen in the next round.

Last Friday evening, the Lebanese delegation refused to allow the Israeli athletes to board the bus to the opening ceremony.